¡°PRAYER ON HIGHER LEVEL¡± By Pastor YAU
Text: Colossians 1:9-14 March 9, 2014.
1) Prayers on ordinary level: I say ¡°most times¡± to be safe in case there are exceptions. In most of our prayers, there are two generalized categories: we pray for ourselves and those close to us. We usually pray for ourselves, our family, friends, people whom we know and love, those whom we care. Then we mostly pray for needs met, things go smooth, sickness get healed, jobs be found, grades get better, hearts filled with more joy, relationship improved, and many others like that---things that relate to our everyday life. No one would say these are wrong things that we shouldn't be praying. Being human, it is a natural tendency to pray for needs on human level.
2) Prayers on higher level: Realizing that Christians are not merely human beings, we are also spiritual beings when we believed in Jesus and were born again to a new life. Apostle Paul says: ¡°So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.¡± (2 Corinth 4:18) That is why when he prayed for the Colossians church and the saints there, he didn't pray the things we usually pray for. He prayed for things that are much higher in value, more important to their real needs and will last much longer then their life time, and will bring more glory to God and his kingdom. While it is not so bad we pray on human level for things in the world, but it is much better if we can learn to pray on a higher level for things of spiritual value in the eyes of God.
AN OVERVIEW ON HIGHER LEVEL PRAYER: (Colossians 1:1-2, 9)
1) The scope of prayer: For the saints. ¡°Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother. To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse.¡± (1:1-2) The prayer of Paul was for all the brothers and sister, God's chosen holy and faithful people in the church at Colosse. This is something we can and need to learn when we pray: We need to pray for all the people God places around us, either it is in our family, at work or in our church. Usually we will pray only for those whom we know, love and are closed to us, and we don't feel bad when we don't pray for others.
Since the Colossian church was not the results of Paul's ministry but that of Epaphras, Paul could feel less concern or connected, but he prayed for them the same way as he did for those churches he had the privilege to start. We need to have a broader perspective on God's work, and a larger heart to love all God's people, particularly in the same church where God places us in. Too often, we are segregated with brothers and sister in the church by walls we built on personal, language or culture. Think about it: If we can care, love and pray for all the people in our church, how much more we may work together to achieve the mission God has placed in our hearts to serve him.
2) The manner of prayer: Without ceasing: ¡°For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.¡± (Col. 1:9)
¡°The reason¡± for Paul's prayer is the good news brought by Epaphras on their growth in the Lord in love, faith and hope. Although their spiritual growth was credited to the ministry of Epaphras, not Paul himself, Paul was as happy to see that and prayed no-stop for their continued growth. Paul did not just continue to pray for them, he prayed for them so frequently as none-stop. This is the way we can learn how to pray for others: none-stop.
We also shouldn't feel lest important or even jealous on the fruits of other coworker in the Lord. We are all in the same team and we need to rejoice for the success of others in our Christian service.
3) The purpose of prayer: Spiritual wisdom. ¡°And asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.¡± (1:9b)
There is a double goal in Paul's prayer: All the saints in the Colossians church will be: a) filled with the knowledge of God's will, and b) they will be filled with spiritual wisdom and understanding. While it is nothing wrong for Paul to pray for many other needs that church may have, he chose to pray for the spiritual capacity: be filled with knowledge and wisdom to understand the will of God. Isn't this one of the things we always struggle to have: to know the will of God? In order to know the will of God, Paul indicated that we need to grow more in spiritual wisdom.
If we really want to see our church grow, our people become dedicated and fervently serving and witnessing, we need to pray for their spiritual life. If we want to see our church in peace and harmony, we need to pray for spiritual wisdom. If we want to raise a generation of young people to be more like Christian, we need to pray for their spiritual wisdom. Spiritual wisdom is the goal in Paul's prayer and it should be ours as well.
THE CONTENTS OF HIGHER LEVEL PRAYER: (1:10-11)
1) Living a worthy life: ¡°And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in everything.¡± (1:10) This is about our everyday life, the way we live, work, act and speak, need to be worthy of the calling of the Lord. (Eph 4:1) ¡°Worthy¡± means ¡°match with value.¡± After we are saved by God's grace, we are to live our life ¡°matching the value¡± God paid for our new life. Paul used a simple criteria for us to measure if we are worthy of the Lord: Please him in everything. Do you believe that your life style, goal, purpose, the way you conduct your actions, word, attitude, they all are worthy of the price God paid for us? Will they all please God? Do our lives please God, makes him happy?
Many people set their criteria of ¡°worthiness¡± of their lives on worldly standard, but Paul urges us to put the standard ¡°in the Lord.¡± Christians are not to pursue life to make the world happy but to make God happy. We can't live our life on worldly value or perspective. Paul didn't just live his life worthy of the Lord, he also prayed for all the saints to live their life that way.
2) Living a fruitful life: ¡°Bearing fruit in every good work.¡± (1:10b) Fruitful life is a theme in the teaching of Jesus in John 15 where he said: ¡°I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in him and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from my you can do nothing.¡± (John 15:5) A fruitful life is a worthy life. Bearing fruit in good work is the ultimate goal God has in all of us. Being idle and lazy is a sin against God's purpose in our lives.
There are several areas God expects us to be fruitful. We can to be fruitful in personal spiritual growth, growing the fruits of the spirit as it says in Galatians 5. We can to be fruitful in serving the Lord through his church because the church is the body of Christ. We can also be fruitful in witnessing and sharing the gospel message to non-believers around us. Do all you can to be fruitful so the Lord will welcome you and call you ¡°good and faithful.¡±
3) Living a knowing life: ¡°Growing in the knowledge of God.¡± (1:10c) Grow to know God more and more was the center of Paul's life from the beginning of his Christian life. Since the day he knew God, he ¡°considered everything a loss compare to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things, I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.¡± (Phil 4:8)
There are at least 3 ways we may grow our knowledge of God: a) Reading his word in a regular and conscious way is number one. Set aside a time just for the Lord in reading the Bible and prayer. b) Learn with others at church in worship service and Bible classes, listen to pastors expounding the truth of the Bible and through discussion with others in classes. c) Practicing spiritual knowledge in everyday living, seeking God's leadership, asking him to grant you spiritual insight in making decisions and choices, just to list a few.
4) Living a powerful life: ¡°Being strengthened with all power according to his gracious might so that you may have great endurance and patience and joyfully.¡± ¡± (1:11) Paul expressed in details his experience on the supreme power of God in his life in 2 Cor. 4:7-9, ¡°But we have this treasure in the jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed but not despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.¡± The power of God in our life is the greatest gift of God to sustain us through the journey in this world. Nothing in this world may carry us through all the troubles in this world except the surpassing power of God.
THE PINNACLE OF HIGHER LEVEL PRAYER: (1:12-14) The pinnacle of higher level prayers is giving thanks to God for all he has done and intends to do for us in the past, the present and that day in heaven. He deserves it all.
1) Blessings of forgiveness of sin: ¡°In who we have redemption, the forgive -ness of sin.¡± (1:14) All prayers should include, if not the only, counting the blessings God has bestowed on his children. Often time, we load our prayers with all the requests, needs and wants, and forget to give thanks to God for all the blessings he has already bestowed on us.
The first things we all need to thank God of is his redeeming grace in his forgiveness of our sins. This is by far the most important blessing of all because it has to do with our being qualified to go to heaven. Because of the blood of Jesus shed on the cross which paid the ransom of our sins so we are forgiven. How often do we remember this tremendous grace God has for us?
2) Blessings in the kingdom of the Son: ¡°For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.¡± (1:13) The is the second step in the blessing of God after he has forgiven our sins. Jesus told his disciples in John 14:2-3, ¡°In my Father's house are many rooms. I am going there to prepare a place. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.¡± Some Christians still don't know or don't trust Jesus that there is room in heaven Jesus has prepared for all of us. Heaven is real that we know where we will go after we have done our duties here on earth.
3) Blessings of inheritance in heaven: ¡°Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saint in the kingdom of light.¡± (1:12) I list this at last for a purpose to show you what God has in stored for all who have been forgiven of their sins and being transported to the kingdom of his Son, and the right to share the heavenly inheritance. No one may know the full impact of the heavenly inheritance, but we all are sure it must be marvelous and wonderful, way beyond any human imagination. A little peep of what heaven is like is given in the book of Revelation. What a blessing that we are qualified to share what God has in heaven forever.
APPLICATION OF TRUTH:
1) Growing in our prayers: Just as we need to grow in our fruits of the spirit, such as love, hope, patience, goodness, peace, kindness, etc. we also need to grow in the level of our prayers¡ªfrom the scope to the purpose, the contents and the application. As we grow in our spiritual maturity, our prayers need to reflect that dimension when we talk to God. The higher level of prayer shows the higher level of our spiritual maturity and things that concern us the most. We need to move our focus of prayer from all about me to all about others. We also need to move from all about things of this world to things above this world. We need bring God more praises and thanksgiving than always ask for more and better. After all we owe God all of our being, material and spiritual.
2) Praying for better purpose: We all have our purpose when we pray. In fact our purpose directs and limits the contents in our prayers. Among all possible purposes we have in our prayers, the top should be praising God and giving him the glory he deserves. What else we may do besides prayer to honor God other than offer him our prayers. If we can step up from selfish or personal needs in our prayers to our spiritual needs, his kingdom, and his promise of heavenly inheritance, how nice it is to demonstrate our spiritual maturity. So, let us learn from Paul in his prayer here in Colossians and begin to pray as he did here and elsewhere. There is always room to improve. ¨C Ed